Should DWI Offenders Be Jailed?

When the woman accused of causing the drunk driving accident that left a girl dead was set to be sentenced, the victim's mother argued that the sentence should have been longer. However, many courts have begun to consider other options for addressing DWI convictions.

Texas allows for drunk drivers to be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison in some cases. The state also enforces a number of other penalties for DWI offenses, including suspension of driving privileges, an annual fee and a $10,000 fine. In one court system, individuals convicted their second or even third DWI were more likely to be sentenced to probation than prison, especially if no fatalities are involved.

One attorney who defends individuals charged with DWI explained that each case needs to be approached in an appropriate way.

Many courts evaluate each drunk driving suspect to determine if a jail sentence is warranted. In cases where such court do not consider suspects unsafe or a threat to society, they often hand down decisions focused on rehabilitation rather than punishment. Such alternatives include the installation of an interlock ignition, which requires one to pass a breathalyzer test before being able to start one's vehicle. Those convicted of DWI may also be required to attend alcohol treatment programs and wear bracelets that can detect whether they have consumed alcohol.

One government official argued that jail time unnecessarily transforms non-violent offenders into criminals rather than give them the help they need. She also argued that imprisoned offenders are more of a burden on society when they are jailed. She explained that paying taxes to keep non-violent DWI offenders in prison is less desirable than finding other penalties that allow those individuals to work and pay taxes.

Source: WOAI.com, "Repeat drunk drivers most likely to get probation," Brian Collister, Aug. 6, 2012